Outside of the village stands a hovel. Painted on its door: Moved to Hell.
|The only house thus still inhabited.|
Because he's so pathetic and childlike, he's not counted one of the Minyan, the quorum of ten Jewish men over 13 required for synagogue worship, although he's had his Bar Mitzvah. They just don't want him there. He's smelly. He's disruptive. He changes the words of the prayers. But if one more family moves away, he will have to be included or there will be no synagogue, and no one is quite sure how to take that.
|The Devil has one milky eye.|
|Do you read, Dovid?|
However. All unknowing, a virulently anti-semitic businessman of the region, Maximilian Hase (Sean McGinley) has the same idea. He makes an offer for the same patch of land. He offers four times as much, but has no time for the arts.
|You shall have all the chicken you want.|
Simon Magus is a great film; perhaps it has one too many subplots (does the squire need a love interest?) and perhaps it drags a bit in the middle. Ben Hopkins, who directed and wrote, has a good eye and a fine grasp of feeling, and the film tugs at the heartstrings; it has this lonely melancholy. It aims to be beautiful. The one character with insight into this is the trader and barman, Bratislav (Terence Rigby). He is friend to all, without being part of any community.
|A beer glass, that refills itself.|
Bratislav: I'm not a Jew. Not a Christian. Neither fish nor flesh. My father was a bad Jew. Fell in love with a Gentile woman. And that's me. Belonging nowhere.It is Bratislav who experiences the one undeniable miracle of the film, right at the end; it is he who offers gratitude that extends beyond the simple.
Simon: Who do you pray to?
Bratislav: I have this idea of God, Simon. He's a beer glass that refills itself, every time you drink it.
|I have grown from the floor of your house, like a mushroom, nourished by your evil deeds.|
The symbolism is made as oblique as it possibly can be. But we're on the border of Germany and Poland, at the dawn of the twentieth century, and someone has a vision of a future where Jews are being taken to Hell on a train.
You know what that signifies. It's the central grief of twentieth century Europe.
It's a context, an existent thing that defines the framework within which Simon Magus is made. We know this is a thing; we cannot make a film set in this place and time without its shadow looming.
The subsequent condition of horror is grief; Simon Magus tries to imply the horror with the grief of a lonely man who isn't permitted to survive in the world, but who, although accused of evil, saves his people. He is one of the Tzadikim, the 36 just men of a generation, who save the world. But who will save the generation to come?